vanessagalore: (!Precipitation)
[personal profile] vanessagalore
TITLE: Pandemonium (28/?)
AUTHOR: [personal profile] vanessagalore
CHARACTERS: Veronica, Logan, Keith
WORD COUNT: 7,703
RATING: PG13 for this chapter
SUMMARY: Sometimes it's best to just get the hell out of Dodge. Set right after 'The Bitch Is Back'.
SPOILERS: Spoilers for the whole series, especially season 3.
WARNINGS: Cursing.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any rights to Veronica Mars. This story is written as a tribute only. Beta'd by zaftig_darling and flyersgrl. All remaining errors are my responsibility.



AUTHOR'S NOTE: I know all the sailing jargon can be confusing, so I've again included a few images to help with understanding the text.

1~Precipitation 2~Precarious 3~Paranoia 4~Prevarication 5~Probation 6~Predicament 7~Paradox 8~Please 9~Perilous 10~Palpitation 11~Precipice 12~Perspiration 13~Peregrination 14~Pursuit 15~Plexus 16~Pier 17~Perception 18~Phantasm 19~Pendulum 20~Pyromania 21~Prognosis 22~Paternity 23~Premeditation 24~Paralysis 25~Panacea 26~Presentiment 27~Prevailing Winds


Click here to read a summary of the whole story from the beginning. And for just the last time on 'Precipitation': (Highlight to read ~OR~ click here to skip directly to the new chapter)

They finally set sail for Bermuda, and Veronica begins to learn what long distance sailing is really like—a lot of the same for long periods and exhaustion from looking at the unchanging seas. She works on her skills and tries to adjust to the schedule. Veronica learns how to reef, or reduce, the sails if the wind is strong. She starts to become more competent in discerning wind direction and takes her job as 'galley wench' seriously.

When she comes back on watch at dinnertime, she learns that there is a strong likelihood of a storm. Steering alone in the cockpit, she worries as the winds increase, until finally it's time to wake Logan to help her.



Chapter Twenty-Eight: Pandemonium

As the sun disappears below the horizon, the winds keep getting stronger. Twenty knots. Thirty. By ten o'clock, we're battling forty knots and we've decided to put the third reef in the sail. "So I'm steering into the wind again, right?" I ask.

Logan appears thoughtful. "I don't think we can. I'm afraid if we steer into the wind with it this strong, we'll lose control and get slammed around. Head up a little, but not directly into the wind, then loosen the main sheet. That'll slow down the boat a little. Remember how I showed you that letting go slowed the boat?"

I nod.

He says, "If we do that, I'll be able to get the reef in."

"Let out the jib too?"

"Yeah, when I get to the mast. Sail a close reach, about 45° off the wind."

I nod that I understand, and he watches while I do it. "That's it. Keep it right there." He starts to move forward, and turns back to me. "Veronica? Don't let the boat get parallel to the wave surge. That's what causes a broach. Keep it right here. No matter what, don't let the waves hit us on the side."

Broach. There's that word that they didn't want to explain to me. Waves hitting the side of the boat—suddenly it's clear. The waves will flip us up onto our side, and then upside down. Broaching is very bad.

'Turtling,' that was the word Duncan had laughingly used when I'd pulled the tiller the wrong way and completely flipped over the boat. I remember how easy it was to flip that boat, and it doesn't seem very comical right about now. "What do I do if it starts happening?"

"Turn upwind. Tack if you have to. Yell first so I grab on and duck. 'Hard alee,' remember?"


And then he's off to the mast, before my fears can paralyze me. Every bit of my focus is on where is the wind and am I steering correctly. I can't screw this up: he's on the foredeck in forty knot winds.

My eyes fly from the compass to the sails to the waves, and I try to superimpose the little diagrams from my book onto the situation. The darkness is blanketing us now—no moon to guide our way, and the stars are obscured by clouds.

This time, even Logan staggers a little with the swaying of the boat. When I ease the lines controlling the sails, he has to use his whole body weight against the force of the wind to pull the mainsail down into a third reef. I grab sail ties to hand to him, but he shakes his head 'no,' shouting 'in a minute.' The wind whips his words past my ears, but I get the gist.

"We need Dad," I say urgently as Logan returns to the cockpit and begins furling up the jib. He's not ignoring me, but he doesn't take time to answer, completely focused on his job. It doesn't want to furl at first, and I say, "It did that yesterday."

He gives me a worried glance, and tries again. The sail finally moves, shrinking as it wraps around the wire leading from the bow to the top of the mast. "You should have told me."

"I'm sorry! I thought I was doing it wrong."


He uses the winch to trim the jib and then pulls in the mainsail, and the wild flapping of the sails stops. Steering is suddenly more responsive. Grabbing the sail ties, he secures the excess sail to the boom, an easier task now that the boat's more under control. Logan turns to me and says, "It's okay. Just tell me everything. Is there anything else that you've had trouble with? Think, Veronica."

I shake my head 'no.' "I'm sorry." Oh my god, I've totally fucked up.

"It's okay," he repeats. "Everything breaks on a sailboat. It's almost impossible to do perfect maintenance. You just prepare for it and deal with it when it happens."

"Did I break it?"

"No! Listen to me. When I looked at sailboats, there was a decision to be made. The roller furler is easier, because we don't have to change sails all the time. Without being able to roll up the jib, you have to take it down and put up a smaller one, and then put back the old one as soon as the wind calms down a little. It's exhausting, and a lot of work. And it means one or two of us all the way up on the bow in high winds."

I nod that I understand.

He continues, "But sometimes roller furlers have problems. The sea air is corrosive, and there are bearings in there that sometimes just wear out. When the wind dies, I'll take a look at it and see if I can fix it."

"When the wind dies," I echo. "You're sure I didn't break it?"

"Positive. All right. I'm going to steer. You go wake up your dad. We've got some decisions to make, and I don't want to make them alone."

Count me out, I think. I've already made too many wrong decisions. Handing over the steering to Logan, I start down the companionway.

"Oh, and Veronica?" I turn, and he adds, "Throw some baked potatoes in the oven. If it's cold, they'll warm our hands, and they'll be good eating, hot and not greasy, if we're starving. Take some Dramamine, and give some to your dad."

"What about you?"

"Already done."

I hadn't considered that he might need help with nausea too.

*****

We huddle in the cockpit, and Logan explains what's happening. "There are three storms. Two of them will pass us by, but they're adding to the strength of the third. If we change course and run before the wind, we might be able to get far enough south that we'll just hit the edge of the storm."

"This isn't the storm?" I say incredulously.

I'm trying to understand the words. I think he's saying that we'll go straight downwind, with gale-force winds at our back, to try to escape the storm. Which they've stressed is dangerous, because the wind can grab the boom and make it fly to the opposite side, an 'accidental jibe.' "Are you saying that the weather's going to get worse?"

"Yeah. In fact, we should put on our foul weather gear now. You can leave it unzipped so you don't get too hot, but I think the skies are going to open up and dump buckets on us."

Dad opens the locker in the cockpit and passes me my raingear before grabbing his own and Logan's. Dad asks, "So what's the decision?"

"You know the problem with running? Especially with the sea so turbulent." Logan glances at me, and I flush, realizing he's thinking about hiding something from me again.

"Accidental jibe," I say quietly. "Give it to me straight, goddammit."

They look at me with surprise, and then Logan says, "Not just that. If the waves get underneath the stern when we're in a trough, the surf can force us to flip ass over teakettle. Pitchpoling, it's called."

"Of course there's a word for it," I say. "It can't just be called 'really-fucking-bad?'"

"I like 'ass over teakettle,'" Dad says. "Very colorful."

"So how likely is this 'pitchpoling?' I mean, I can't weigh in on this when you guys refuse to share anything bad with me," I say.

"I think if I'm steering, we'll be okay," Logan says, with less confidence than I'd like. "We could try it for a while, and see how it feels—try to get further away from the center of the storm. We can always stop and heave-to. "

Oh fuck. I forgot about that.

*****

I'd thought I'd experienced surfing down a wave in the boat, but truly I hadn't. This is the roller coaster from hell. At each crest, we feel airborne, and then we crash down into a trough, with Logan fighting the helm to meet each wave at a 45° angle. Our bow slices into the water, and droplets go flying.

We've put the jib out on the opposite side of the main, which scared the living fuck out of me, but it doesn't seem any worse for stability, and Logan said it would give us more speed and get us out of the storm's path faster. The sails are so tiny that it seems ridiculous, but Logan said sometimes people take down the sails entirely and the boat will still be pushed by the wind.

It doesn't help that we can barely see where we're going in the impenetrable darkness. Logan switches on the radar proximity detector, but all of us are constantly straining our eyes, looking for boats or other obstacles in our path.

Although it hasn't rained more than a few drops, we're getting soaked by sea spray. And I hear the boat making sounds it never did before: the groans of metal and wood, stressed beyond tolerances; metal wires shrieking with the wind; water rushing on deck, seeking entrance into our quarters; and a constant flapping of the sail fabric, no matter how the lines are trimmed.

Then there are sounds that I can't identify, and I try to ignore them because I assume they are very bad. Over everything is the howling of the wind. I can feel the storm in every cell of my body. Instinct is telling me to cower in my bunk and wait for death to come, praying that it's fast and peaceful.

But no. There's work to be done. Logan tells Dad to get the emergency tiller, because the steering mechanism is 'taking a beating.' Dad seems to know what he means, and digs into the storage cabinet in the cockpit. From the jumble of ropes, rubber oblong things and extra PFDs, he pulls out a long and thin red plastic case.

My job is to hand him tools, like a surgery nurse. After a few minutes and a bit of cursing, there's now a wooden stick protruding from the stern into the cockpit. Duncan's sailboat had one just like it, but smaller.

Logan grabs the tiller, and the steering wheel now spins freely. I watch for a minute and get totally confused. The tiller seems to work opposite the way the wheel does, and I'm petrified that I'm going to have to steer.

I'm told to find our bungee cords in the cockpit locker. Everything's been tossed around in this underseat storage compartment, and even with the flashlight it's hard to locate the bungees. I finally come up with four of them. Logan sees me rooting around and tells me to zip them into the pocket of my foul weather gear so we know exactly where they are.

It's warm and humid, but all three of us are drenched with salt spray and shivering inside our yellow raingear. The water finds its way inside our jackets, making a sodden mess of our clothes. And the wind whips away all of your body heat. We all have our hoods tied on, trying to keep hypothermia at bay.

When I'd run down below to turn off the oven baking our potatoes, I'd seen a stream of water flowing back and forth with the lurching of the boat. I peeked in the V-berth, and water was dripping from one of the portholes onto the bed. I'd reported it to Logan, and he'd said, "We'll deal with it later. It'll be fine." I hand two foil-wrapped potatoes each to Dad and Logan. My fingers are curled around my own in my pockets—my stomach's too roiled to consider eating but the warmth is comforting.

The end of my watch comes and goes. I ask if I should try to go below and get some rest, and Logan shakes his head. "I don't know how much longer we can do this. I'm getting tired. We're going to have to heave-to soon. Fifteen more minutes, maybe. Maybe you could make some more coffee. Or tea. Let's try that ginger tea."

Once I get below, I decide I better use the bathroom now. In the cramped little closet, I get banged back and forth and half of my pee goes on the floor. Triple-checking the instructions for evacuating the bowl, I push the plunger, hoping I don't see the ocean coming in through the toilet to sink us. I watch for several minutes, braced against the wall of the tiny head, until I'm certain that we're not going to have a flood.

When I get back on deck with tea, Dad's trying to pee over the side too, with about as much success as I had. Modesty's completely gone, for all of us. The ginger tea is surprisingly good, and it helps with the nausea. I eat a few bites of my potato, and my stomach feels better for it.

And then we're flying. The boat leaps from a crest, hanging precipitously in the air, defying gravity. With a sickening thump, we hit the bottom of the crest, and then the boat tilts forward toward the bow. I can't help looking back—there's a black wall of water, frothing like a mad dog, racing toward us and insinuating itself under our stern. "Logan!" I scream and point.

He glances, and with a split-second to make a decision, he pushes the tiller and we turn. The jib flies wildly, making us even more unstable, but we don't flip over our bow. A tremendous spout of water soaks the boat, so much so that it almost feels like we're underwater for ten long seconds.

"We've got to heave-to!" Logan shouts over the keening winds. "I'll tack to get the jib backwinded, and then you guys pull out the parachute and get it attached. Hand signals." He shows us A-OK for 'that's good,' slicing across the neck for 'abort,' and moving one finger in a circle for 'try it again or keep going.'

'Abort.' What's left if we can't manage to heave-to? 'Abandon ship,' that's the highest alert level we have. I glance at the pitiful liferaft lashed to the deck, and vow that we're going to get this maneuver to work.

Somehow, we've got to weather the storm, I think, realizing just how that expression came into being. Absurdly it crosses my mind that we should 'batten the hatches.'

And then it starts to rain.

*****

It's raining like a motherfucker now, the skies pouring buckets and the seas spouting spray: unrelenting great gouts of water from all sides. Dad and I are slip-sliding our way onto the bow. My boat shoes help, but the deck is a skating rink that careens unpredictably, with the wind threatening to push you overboard. I've never loved my harness more than I do right now.

But we know what to do after practicing, and somehow we get the parachute overboard and fidget with the bridle until it seems right. Dad shouts in my ear, "More line. We've got to get it out to the next crest!" I ease out the rope from the winch, the way they'd taught me, protecting my hands, a little bit at a time, as controlled as I can make it. "More," he calls. "A little more. Okay." I cleat the line and we look at Logan. He gives us the 'A-OK' and we head back to the cockpit.

He's fighting the tiller, constantly having to push it to get the nose of the boat to stay 45° off the wind. But if he just leaves it alone, the boat starts to turn and the sails flap, with the boat heaving nauseatingly from side to side in the surf. I try to understand how the tiller relates to steering, but I just get more confused.

Logan yells, "She keeps trying to turn downwind. We have too much windage."

I don't think Dad understands what he means either.

"We've got to roll up the jib all the way. Do it, Veronica. Keith, keep your hand on the main sheet and be ready to ease if we start sailing."

I find the furling line, and haul hard. It won't move. "Goddammit! It's stuck again."

"Keep trying!" Logan shouts.

"Switch with me," Dad yells. We change jobs, but he can't make it move either.

Logan's face is creased with worry. "We've got to douse that jib! You've got to go up on the bow and pull it down." There's no question of someone else taking over the steering; Logan is barely managing to keep us alive with his far greater expertise.

"I got it," Dad says.

But Logan grabs his shoulder and says, "No. You need to both go."

*****

I've never done this before. Every sail was already installed when I got on board. I have only the slightest idea how this part of the boat functions. Something about a halyard and a groove…oh, who the fuck knows.

Dad talks me through it twice before we go forward. I see Logan struggling with the strain of keeping the boat at a comfortable angle to the wind; he's getting tired, and he can't do this forever. We're all soaked and miserable, and the rain keeps beating us down.

I crawl like a little baby, I'm not ashamed to say. Usually it's 'one hand for the boat,' but right now, it's 'two hands.' And then Dad and I reach the mast. He'll stay at the mast to work the rope attached to the head of the sail, but I have to go all the way to the bow to pull on the foot of the sail.

We had to let the jib all the way out in order to pull it down, and the amount of fabric pulsing with wind seems insane. The wet mylar sail stings when it grazes my cheek. At the mast, Dad uncleats a line and pays out rope. I try to pull on the sail from the bottom. I'm supposed to prevent it from flying overboard. It comes down about a foot, and stops.

Dad makes a pulling motion, and I try again. Pull … pull … PULL! The sail comes down, the very top of the triangle of fabric about four feet above deck at last. But something doesn't feel right at all. The boat careens wildly, and Dad is yelling.

I make out that he's saying, "Halyard!" and pointing up energetically. A rope is flying around, getting impossibly tangled in the wires and ropes that make this boat go. It winds itself into a mare's nest, and even I can tell that the boat does not like it all. The groaning of the mast drowns out the wind.

Dad leaps, trying to grab the little metal clip attached to the rope. On his second jump, the boat lurches underneath him, and he crashes to the deck, his legs twisting underneath him and his head making contact with one of the metal poles holding up the lifeline.

The owner had a heart attack … couldn't get back to shore … he didn't survive …

Screaming, I crawl to him, skidding on the wet deck. I have to unclip and reclip on the lifeline, and I pant in frustration at the delay. He'd unclipped himself to make his leaps, and he's sliding toward the edge every time the boat tilts. Dad looks woozy from hitting his head, but he's hanging onto the mast … just barely. Faintly, I hear Logan yelling from the cockpit, but the words are indistinguishable.

I crouch down beside him and locate his harness. We're near the emergency liferaft, and I decide to clip him onto the ropes lashing it to the deck, hoping it's the right thing to do. Fuck, this is hard! I wish Logan was back here helping, but I feel the boat being tossed by the waves and know we need him steering. Damn my steering incompetence! "Dad! Dad, are you all right?"

"Hit my head. Ankle hurts." There's a smear of blood on his cheek from a cut above his eyebrow.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck! Did you break it?"

"Don't know. What'd you clip me to?"

"The liferaft. It looks secure, and it's right here."

"Good. Veronica, you've got to get that halyard." He pushes himself up to a seated position, leaning against our liferaft.

"After I get you down below—"

"No, now. We won't make it. That halyard is destabilizing the boat! If it gets caught in the backstay, we could lose the mast. You got to get it and secure it now. … Shit!" I follow his glance, and see that the jib sail is sliding overboard into the water. "Get the jib … fast, Veronica … then you're going to have to climb the mast and grab the halyard."

He definitely hit his head, because I can't climb the mast.

"You can do it. Go." Dad points weakly at the sail. "Now, Veronica."

I go to the jib and begin hauling the sodden fabric out of the water. It's heavy as a bitch, and I'm exhausted by the time I get it all on board.

Dad's yelling. "Tie it to the stanchions if you can't get it through the hatch!"

I'm truthfully not certain how the hatch works. It leads to the inside of the boat, to a little locker accessible from the V-berth. I try a couple things to open it and give up. Damn men and their infernal devices! Remembering the bungee cords in my pocket, I use two of them to attach the drenched sail to two of the metal posts holding up the lifeline. The boat heaves again, and I scuttle back to the mast.

How the fuck does Dad expect me to climb this smooth steel pole? In a motherfucking storm?

*****

Dad's working furiously at the mast, attaching a rope to something made out of canvas. Yanking out a neatly coiled line from a bag attached to the mast, he hands it to me and tells me to take it back to Logan. "Tell him you're going up in the bosun's chair to get the halyard, and then come back. Bring the boat hook with you. Logan'll know what to do. Hurry, Veronica."

The boat feels awful, very unstable and pitching around at the whims of the waves and the wind. By the time I crawl back to the cockpit and pass Logan the rope, I'm completely out of breath, my whole body trembling with fatigue.

"What the hell's going on? I can't see, but the boat's really unbalanced. I can't keep her steady!"

"Boe-sins chair?" I say, panting a little. "Dad's hurt. He says I have to climb the mast to get the haul yard … says we could lose the mast."

I've butchered the words, but he gets the meaning. "Okay, I know what to do." He starts unwinding the rope around one of the largest winches and replacing it with the line I've brought back from the mast. "Go. Be careful. You'll be okay, I won't let you get hurt." Logan concentrates on the rope and I go, but I hear him say, "Love you" as I crawl clumsily back to the mast, the six-foot boat hook tucked under my arm.

Back at the mast, Dad instructs me to get into the canvas device, almost like an safety toddler seat on a swing set. I step into the two leg holes, and Dad shouts to pull the adjustment straps tight. "One hand on the mast as you go up. Then use the boat hook to grab the halyard. You're going to have to untangle it from all the wires and ropes. Once you get the end free, give Logan a thumbs-down so he knows to let you down. Be careful."

"Love you, Daddy."

Dad checks the straps and the attachment point on the seat one more time: it's as secure as it's going to get.

I'm ready, and I give Logan a thumbs-up. He begins cranking the winch.

*****

I can see him struggling to keep the steering as steady as possible with his left hand behind his back while his right arm winches me up the mast. It's slow, and I keep my hand on the mast as I rise four feet, eight feet, twelve feet. Rainwater runs into my eyes, but I don't dare take a hand to wipe my face. Above me, green and red lights at the top of the mast cleave the soggy darkness, and then I'm blinded momentarily when a white light goes on as well.

Then the boat lurches, tilting so far that the low side of the boat is buried in the sea, and I lose my grasp on the slippery mast, swinging out over the water as the boat tilts. I try not to look down and to keep my eyes on Logan, but in my peripheral vision I see a big wave approaching the side of the boat opposite to me. Black water roars, darker than the sky, massive and purposeful—ready to deliver the knockout punch.

Holy fuck, we're going to broach!

Logan's not winching, but looking at me dangling and trying desperately to steer to get the boat to flatten. The gorge rises in my throat. And I'm praying. Veronica Mars doesn't pray, but I'm praying.

At any moment, I'm expecting that my weight will be the last straw that overbalances the boat, and we'll soon be upside down. I pat my knife in its sheath in case I have to cut myself free underwater.

Please … I'm not ready to die.

The wave hits and I sway even further out before he finally he gets the boat to respond. Like a pendulum, I sway back, wildly swinging the boat hook at the twin metal arms that extend twenty inches out from the mast perpendicularly. With a lucky swipe, I snag one of the arms and pull myself back to the safety of the shiny metal pole.

I really hope that it's okay to grab these arms, because right now, I'm totally in love with them. But the rope on the seat hitches up again, and when I look down, Logan is winching. I wish we could talk, that he could reassure me that I'm doing this right.

Another eight feet … ten … and the rope stops pulling me up. I look down to the cockpit and see that he's cleated the line to help him hold it. It's the kind of cleat that pops off fast when necessary, but secure enough with the addition of the winch bearing most of the load and Logan himself holding the end. He's nodding his head at me, and I can see that he's concentrating on trying to keep the boat as steady as he can.

In the gleam of the light on top of the mast, I see the metal shackle of the halyard caught on one of the wires. It's just out of reach, so I use the boat hook. Three tries, four, and finally on the fifth try I snag it. This rope's power to harm us comes from the tangles it's making as the boat weaves and the line flies around the rigging.

I unwrap the halyard from the wire going from the top of the mast to the stern, once, twice around, and then it's free, the boat already responding better. Logan has somehow located a spotlight along with everything else he's doing, and he shines it on the ropes and wires to help me see what I'm doing. I glance toward him, and he's nodding and giving me a thumbs-up and then circling his finger, telling me to keep going.

The boat flounders again, and both the boat hook and the halyard are knocked out of my fingers. I push myself off the mast and swing out, vowing that this fucking rope will not escape after all this, and I grab the halyard and swing back to the mast. A few more turns around the long wires that attach the top of the mast to the side of the boat, and the halyard's finally free.

I motion thumbs-down furiously, and Logan starts easing the line. I'm coming down faster than I went up—he can't control the line very well with only one hand.

The line jerks and stops. I look to the cockpit and Logan puts up one finger. He puts the tiller between his legs and works at the winch, unwrapping and rewrapping the rope, and I realize he's got a fucking override, which seems hysterically funny at this point.

The rope begins moving again and I descend the last ten feet very fast, Dad catching me as my legs make contact with the blessed deck.

Dad clips the halyard to the mast and cleats off the line. Still in the bosun's chair, I sit with my head between my legs and try to breathe normally. I've still got to get Dad back to the cockpit.

He exhales loudly. "Great job, Veronica." Dad helps me extricate myself from the canvas chair and stows it into a box bolted to the deck next to the mast. I'd never even noticed the box before. Right now, I can't decide if the bosun's chair was evil or heroic. There's too much on this boat that I don't quite understand, and I vow to ask questions and figure this out so we get where we're going in one piece.

Miraculously, the boat hook I dropped is rolling around on the foredeck, and I flop backward and grab it just as it's going over the side. Where to put it? I tuck it under the bungee cords securing the jib sail and hope it'll hold for now.

"Dad, can you crawl? I don't think I can pull you."

"I'll try."

The boat is maneuvering better, but still flopping from side to side, and even on all fours Dad lets out a loud groan when all his weight lands on his right leg.

Again I debate pulling him.  "Wait a second … What about the line you used with the chair?  Can we attach it to your harness and slide you along the deck?"

"Not that rope.  But we can use a jib sheet.  Let's try it.  Cut it at the corner and bring it here."  Dad's voice is weaker than I'd like, and I realize he'd put forth a supreme effort to get me up the mast.  I crawl back to the bow and use my knife to saw at the rope attached to the jib.  When I bring it back to him, he says, "Tie a bowline, honey.  You remember how, right?"

Passing the end of the rope through the D-ring on his harness, I make a loop, my hands shaking.  Get it right the first time.  I thread the end through and under and through again and pull it taut.  It looks right.  It is right.  "Okay, when we start pulling, try to help as much as you can."

"Yeah."  His voice is even fainter.  As I scuttle past him toward the cockpit, I see that there is blood smeared all over the sleeve of his foul weather jacket.  He bled a lot more than I thought—probably kept wiping it out of his eyes as I was ascending the mast.

I pant to Logan, "I attached the jib sheet to Dad's harness.  We've got to slide him.  He's getting weak … hurry."

"Take the tiller.  Hold it right there—she's steady as long as we keep this heading."  Logan had used the winch that usually held the jib sheet to haul me up the mast, so he has to unwind the rope and rewrap it with the new one.  As soon as he has three turns on the winch, he slots in the handle and cranks with both hands.  He's got to be as tired as I am, but with Dad helping to get his body past all the obstacles, Logan manages to get Dad as far as the cockpit and helps him slide down onto the seat.

Logan asks, "You got those bungee cords?"

"Two of 'em. Two are holding the jib onto the boat."

"Give me those two, and go look for at least two more. There's some in the galley, I think. Hurry."

"Yeah, I know where they are." Passing the tiller to him, I hurry down below and take off two bungees that are helping to keep two cabinet doors from flying open. As soon as I release the bungees, the doors open and cans start falling out. There's seawater on the floor and the cans are rolling around in it.

I look around, gasping, and spot the duct tape. Shoving the cans back in the cabinet as best I can, I duct tape each cabinet door shut. Fuck the varnish, I think. The duct tape looks like it'll hold for a little while, and I hustle back to the cockpit with the two bungee cords.

"Everything okay?" Logan asks.

"Cabinet doors came open when I took off the bungees. I taped 'em shut."

"Good thinking." He's already attached the first two bungee cords to the tiller, one to each side of the boat, and he adds the ones that I brought.

And miraculously the boat steadies, rocking slightly like a toy boat in a bathtub—our haven in the middle of a hurricane.

*****

With the steering secured and Logan able to help, we get Dad down the companionway and set up on the seats in the salon. It's not calm below, but the boat is sitting pretty flat in the water, and the howling of the wind and the moaning of the boat are dramatically reduced.

I help Dad out of his foul-weather gear and examine his swollen ankle while Logan puts pressure on the cut on his forehead. "Try to move it," I tell Dad. He winces, but he's able to move his foot in all directions, and I'm pretty sure it's just a bad sprain.

Just a bad sprain—a complete nightmare on board an unsteady boat. He's not going to be able to go on the foredeck for the rest of the voyage. My job just got a lot harder. "I think it's a sprain," I say, trying to keep my voice neutral. "How's his head? Will he need stitches?"

Logan removes the gauze and scrutinizes the wound. "No stitches. Butterflies, maybe. But I think he conked his head pretty hard."

"It would take a lot more than that to put Keith Mars out of commission," Dad says, his voice weaker than his words.

"Geez, Dad, all this so you could get out of your watch. Lame." I turn to Logan. "We've got to ice this ankle. Maybe his forehead too."

"Seawater in a bucket," Logan suggests. "With a couple frozen dinners to cool down the water. Frozen peas for his head."

"Yeah, that'll work."

He grabs a bucket from a locker and half-fills it with seawater from the rinsing hose in the galley kitchen. I dig into the icebox and pull out the beef stew I was planning to serve for tomorrow's dinner, along with one frozen bottle of water. Logan brings the bucket to Dad, and I plop in the frozen items. When Dad puts his foot in, he winces but says it's not too cold. I give him some painkillers and bandage his forehead while Logan goes up to check on the boat.

Pulling off my foul weather jacket, I feel something heavy and find one of the baking potatoes, still wrapped in foil, in the pocket. The other must have flown into the sea at some point. I wolf it down, suddenly starving.

Logan comes back down after a few minutes. "It's all good up there. I got the jib down the hatch and rescued the boat hook. A little adjustment with the bridle holding the chute, and all of a sudden she settled down a lot. The boat's only losing a little ground, and we can get some rest. It's probably going to blow hard until morning."

He pulls off his sailing gloves with a grimace; his right palm is a reddened mass of torn skin from supporting my weight when he got the override. I wince, and make him sit down so I can put antibiotic cream and a bandage on it.

While I work on his hand, he tells me, "You did good, Veronica. We wouldn't have made it without you. Your dad and I are too heavy—we wouldn't have been able to winch one of us up the mast in this wind. It was a close call, but we're all right."

I smooth adhesive tape over the dressing, thinking how much it must have hurt when he was holding up all of my weight. "Good thing I'm so scrawny. Hey, Logan. You know how I've been getting really flustered with the names and the wind and everything?"

He nods.

"Teach me everything you know. Don't baby me. I can do this."

"Yeah, you can."

*****

Eight hours later the storm finally blows itself out. We reemerge on deck with the rising sun and favorable winds.

Logan and I clean up the boat, mopping up seawater in the galley and salon and pumping out the bilge. To get some sleep, we'd duct-taped a disposable diaper over the leaking porthole in our cabin, and now Logan scrapes out the silicone sealant around the fixture and reseals it, drying it with a hairdryer (using precious battery power).

Dad's hobbling around, declaring that he'll take over the galley duties and I better start learning how to fix the engine. We rig up a walking cast for him made out of rubber from a dock fender, cotton batting from one of the settee's cushions and, of course, duct tape.

Logan lubricates the jib roller furling mechanism and it seems to be working all right, for now. We get the jib up again and pray that the furler will make it all the way to the Caribbean. But Logan assures me that we could always hoist a traditional jib sail and get rid of the furler altogether. On a sailboat, we expect things to go wrong. And we make sure that we're able to deal with those things. Somehow that doesn't scare me anymore.

At noon, we discuss turning south toward the Virgin Islands and sailing the rhumb line. The wind's faltering, and if we're going to be motoring anyways, Logan says we ought to try to get south and pick up the trade winds. We agree, and Logan programs a new course into our navigation software.

The plan right now is to sail into St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. We can easily clear customs there, since we can truthfully claim we sailed from one U.S. port to another without any stops. No visa required. They won't be scrutinizing our passports, and just to be sure, we soak them in a little seawater to enhance their battered appearance.

We'll rest for a few days in St. Thomas, refuel, restock, and repair, and then head for the Dominican Republic, where we can secure a 30-day renewable visa without much hassle.

After a few hours of motoring, the winds pick up and we begin sailing again. We have an incredibly clear night after a gorgeous sunset, with the Milky Way startlingly visible in the moonless sky—no civilization and no light to diminish their impact.

The next day, we see a whale and a pod of dolphins swims with us for an hour. We're making good time, averaging 105 miles per day, even with all that time spent hove-to.

And then we see another sailboat, about a half mile away. Logan says the standard procedure would be to hail them, but if we don't, or don't respond to their hail, they'll just assume something's wrong with our radio. After all, everything breaks on a boat—it's just a matter of time.

Or maybe they'll think we're just assholes.

The next day, I notice that one of the two bolts on the wire leading from the stern to the mast is missing its nut. Logan replaces the missing nut using an adhesive he calls 'Loctite' and says that the backstay was under a lot of stress when the halyard was fouled in the rigging, and that probably loosened the nut. We were damn lucky that nut didn't come off when we were in the storm.

As he works, I query him, until I understand every term and have a general sense of how the mast is held up by a system of counterbalanced wires leading to the stern, the bow, and the two sides. As a consequence, I now have a greater understanding of the stresses upon the boat and a sense of awe that Panacea withstood all that pressure.

Days pass. Little things go wrong all the time. Lines get tangled. A jib sheet frays and has to be replaced. The oil pressure gauge on the engine shows a low reading, and Dad finds and repairs a small leak in the system.

A couple of aluminum cans that got soaked by seawater in the storm start to leak in the cabinets, leading to a nasty stench in the galley. So Dad and I spend hours scrubbing the cabinets with seawater.

There's always something that needs to be repaired, and I start to enjoy coming up with creative solutions. It feels good to be so self-reliant.

It takes about five days before the inside of the boat has completely dried out from water that leaked in during the storm. We sleep rolled up in space blankets that are impermeable to the constant dampness, and it truthfully isn't all that bad. When it's sunny and calm, we drag the cushions and mattress up to the deck and dry them out some more; our wet clothes hang along the lifelines.

After six days, what's left of our frozen meals have melted, and we have a banquet of everything from the icebox. After that, it's canned meals and spaghetti, with cabbage salads and baked potatoes. Breakfast is easy: even unrefrigerated, our three dozen eggs easily last over a week by flipping them every other day and we have an eggless pancake mix from a health food store for after that. Oatmeal hits the spot when it's stormy or blowing hard. So some days we have breakfast twice. It's not nearly as unhealthy as the old Mars dessert-for-dinner night.

We hit two more storms. They're not as intense, and we're able to keep on a comfortable point of sail throughout. Panacea doesn't take on much water in either storm, to our relief.

There's a lot of time to talk and read. Bathing with seawater from a bucket gets old fast. During the third storm, I go out in the cockpit in my bikini and soap up, letting the rain wash me as clean as I get during the whole voyage. Logan, at the helm, teases me about being a prude, and I stick my tongue out and strip off my bathing suit, giving him a real show.

There's something about the emptiness and vastness of the ocean that makes the three of us even more close than we'd been. We're relying on each other, twenty-four hours a day. Trust and communication get easier, until we seem to be able to sense what the others need without words. Arguments get resolved quickly—we speak our minds but listen to what the others are saying.

And gradually I learn how to sail. All the sailing terminology that Dad and Logan use so casually becomes second-nature for me as well. I have confidence that I know what every rope is used for. Studying the sailing texts, I push myself to experiment with all the fine control lines to understand how sail shape functions. There's something very cool about saying, "Ease the vang," and knowing exactly what that means and why it should be done.

On a calm day with very light winds almost directly behind us, we launch the spinnaker, a billowy parachute-like sail that attaches to the front of the boat with a pole. The spinnaker is beautiful, purple, teal and yellow lightweight fabric, and it seems to pull the boat through the ocean even though the surface of the water looks like undulating glass from the lack of wind.

I'm constantly awed by capricious loveliness of the journey. "You need clouds for a beautiful sunset," they say, and somehow the constant threat of the ocean's power makes the beauty all the more sweet. We savor every moment of favorable weather, and deal with the bad when it comes.

Every day, Logan and I sit down with updated figures for our fuel, water, and position, and calculate whether we should try to gain a little speed by motoring when the wind dies, or ration water and ride out the calms. Logan had insisted that we store an impressive cushion of both spare fuel and water, enough for twenty-five days total with average usage.

But by day twelve, we're two hundred and fifty miles out from St. Thomas with plenty of fuel and water to spare. I order a celebration when we pass the point where we can motor the rest of way to St. Thomas. Dad makes a pitiful cake—really kind of a pan muffin with chocolate chips—and we sing 'What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor,' completely out of key.

There's enough water left the night before we arrive in St. Thomas for each of us to take a short shower with fresh water. I have blonde roots showing in my hair under my baseball cap. Logan's hair is the blondest I've ever seen it, and he announces his intention to grow a ponytail. Dad jokes that he's going to grow a ponytail too, or maybe get dreadlocks. We're all ridiculously tanned, and I feel stronger than I've ever been.

On our fifteenth day at sea, we arrive in St. Thomas and are cleared into customs without a hitch. Continue reading...Paradise

(no subject)

Date: 2013-09-08 06:09 am (UTC)
sroni: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sroni
I've been reading this story for... Golly, I don't even know how long now. And I love it. I really really seriously love it, every damn word, and I want more, and I love you so much for writing more, you have no idea, and I also kind of hate you at the same time, because I'm greedy and want more.

But I'll get over my greediness and just go back and re-read everything now, because, seriously, every word is perfection and just unnnnnnnnng. Perfect.

LoVe

Date: 2013-09-10 02:35 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you SO MUCH for continuing with this story!! I cannot tell you how much I love this extended VM world you have created! Your knowledge & skill & overall love for these characters shows in every word & make you completely unparalleled in the fan fic world! :)

Please don't stop now! I can't wait for the next part...maybe a little St Thomas lovin'?? :)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-11-10 09:15 am (UTC)
medjunkie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] medjunkie
So relieved they made it. I'm really impressed with all the research you did, it really added to the tension of the storm that you could describe things so accurately

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-02 10:21 pm (UTC)
medjunkie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] medjunkie

Thanks for getting back to me. Of course I'm going to stick with the story! I have every confidence it will continue to be amazing

Sent from my iPad

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-02 10:34 pm (UTC)
medjunkie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] medjunkie

I'll a look now. I'm hopeful but have some trepidation about the movie. Pleased that some uk cinemas are going to show it

Sent from my iPad

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Momentary Thing





The Edge of the Ocean





I Turn My Camera On





Sway





We Used to Be Friends





La Femme d'Argent




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